6 June 2006

Background Release

United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space to Hold 49th Session in Vienna

To Discuss Use of Satellite Technology to Protect Water Resources and Forests, and Coordination of International Cooperation in Space-Based Disaster Management

VIENNA, 6 June (UN Information Service) -- The United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) will hold its forty-ninth session in Vienna, Austria, from 7 to 16 June.

Topics such as space and water, space and education and the recommendations of the World Summit on the Information Society, will be on the agenda. The Committee will also discuss issues raised in the reports of its two Subcommittees - the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee and the Legal Subcommittee - on their sessions earlier this year. These include space-system-based disaster management support, space debris, the use of nuclear power sources in outer space, practice of States and international organizations in registering space objects and the definition and delimitation of outer space.

Space and Water

The Committee will be briefed on a pilot project in the area of "Space and water". At its session in 2005, the Committee heard a presentation on progress in preparing a pilot project that would apply space applications to the restoration of Lake Chad and the management of water resources in the Lake Chad basin. The representatives of those States involved in the pilot project will brief the Committee on the progress achieved in implementing the project.

Space and Education

The Committee will consider "Space and education", and will  develop specific, concrete action plans for incorporating outer space into education, enhancing education in space, expanding space tools for education and ensuring that space-based services contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goal on access to education. The Committee will also prepare a brief document on the role of space in education, as well as the link between space and education, for transmission to the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).         

Recommendations of the World Summit on the Information Society

The Committee will consider a new agenda item concerning the recommendations of the World Summit on the Information Society. The International Telecommunication Union will brief the Committee on the recommendations of the World Summit and their implementation.

United Nations Programme on Space Applications

Based on the report of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, COPUOS will review the United Nations Programme on Space Applications, including the activities of the International Satellite System for Search and Rescue (Cospas-Sarsat). The system is designed to provide distress alert and location data to assist search and rescue operations, and has been successfully in use since 1982, saving more than 18,800 lives in over 5,300 situations worldwide. Among other activities, the United Nations Programme on Space Applications holds workshops and training courses to promote awareness of Cospas-Sarsat and to support countries in coordinating its use.

Space-System-Based Disaster Management Support

The Committee will have before it, for its review and recommendation to the General Assembly at its sixty-first session, the final study of the ad hoc expert group on the possibility of creating an international entity to provide for coordination and the means of realistically optimizing the effectiveness of space-based services for use in disaster management.

Practice of States and International Organizations in Registering Space Objects

COPUOS will discuss the issue of practice of States and international organizations in registering space objects. The Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space requires States launching objects such as satellites, to make available information on the launched object to the United Nations. Based on this information, OOSA maintains the United Nations Register of Objects Launched into Outer Space, for which it also provides an online searchable index.

Symposium on "Space and Forests"

A symposium on "Space and Forests" will be held on the afternoon of Monday, 12 June. The symposium is being organized by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs in cooperation with the Institute for Global Mapping and Research of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts. The objectives of the symposium are to: (a) present a brief overview of the available technology that is used in monitoring forests; (b) present case studies on the uses and benefits of space-based technology in forestry; (c) identify ways in which developing countries can make use of space-based data and information to protect their forests; and (d) recommend ways of expanding the use, particularly in developing countries, of space-based data and information for management of forests.


The session of the Committee will coincide with the opening of a special exhibition on "A New Perspective on Mars" at the Vienna International Centre. The exhibition, jointly organized by the German Aerospace Center and OOSA, will display large-format, three-dimensional satellite imagery of Mars taken by the German High Resolution Stereo Camera onboard the European Mars Express space probe, as well as a wide variety of information about Mars, its moons and the exploration of the Red Planet. The exhibition can be viewed as part of a guided tour of the Vienna International Centre.

Flag Ceremony

In a ceremony on Tuesday, 13 June, a United Nations flag carried onboard China's first human spaceflight, Shen Zhou V, will be unveiled at the United Nations space exhibit at the Vienna International Centre. Following an offer by China to the UN Secretary-General in July 2003, the flag was provided for the space mission as a symbol of China's firm commitment to use outer space for peaceful purposes and for the betterment of all humankind. The flag was returned to the United Nations in 2004, and will be permanently displayed at the UN space exhibit.


COPUOS has the following 67 Member States:  Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela and Viet Nam.

The following inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations have permanent observer status with COPUOS: Association of Space Explorers, Committee on Earth Observation Satellites, Committee on Space Research, Regional Centre for Remote Sensing of the North African States, Eurisy, European Space Agency, European Space Policy Institute, International Academy of Astronautics, International Astronautical Federation, International Astronomical Union, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, International Law Association, International Mobile Satellite Organization, Intersputnik International Organization of Space Communications, International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, International Space University, National Space Society, Space Generation Advisory Council, Spaceweek International Association and The Planetary Society.


The Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) was set up by the General Assembly in 1959 to review the scope of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, to devise programmes in this field to be undertaken under United Nations auspices, to encourage continued research and the dissemination of information on outer space matters and to study legal problems arising from the exploration of outer space. COPUOS and its two Subcommittees each meet annually to consider questions put before them by the General Assembly, reports submitted to them and issues raised by the Member States. The Committee and the Subcommittees, working on the basis of consensus, make recommendations to the General Assembly.

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA) implements the decisions of the General Assembly and of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and its two Subcommittees, the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee and the Legal Subcommittee. The Office is responsible for promoting international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, and assisting developing countries in using space science and technology. Located in Vienna, Austria, OOSA maintains a website at http://www.unoosa.org/ .

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For information contact:

Qais Sultan
Associate Programme Officer
Telephone: +43 1 26060-4962
E-mail: qais.sultan@unvienna.org